A Line in the Sand Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
To the Discussion Leader
Who better to tell the story of the Battle of the Alamo than a fifth-generation Texan. Sherry Garland's great-great grandfather "...went to Texas while it was still a Republic." Garland's knowledge of and love for the Lone Star State and its history shines through in A Line in the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence.
Lucinda Lawrence's diary offers a first-hand look at the early attempts of Mexican soldiers to take a cannon from the Texans in her home town of Gonzales; the growing tensions between the two sides; and the tragedies of Goliad, the Runaway Scrape, and the Battle of the Alamo. The diary is a blend of historical events and daily life in Texas of 1836. Talk of war and specific battles is mingled with descriptions of making lye soap, butchering hogs, and harvesting cotton. Familiar historical figures, from Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie to Sam Houston and Santa Anna, share the stage with Lucinda's fictional family.
Lucinda's brother Willis is certainly a hero as he crosses the line in the sand at the Alamo and gives his life in the fight for freedom. But Lucinda's parents are heroes as well. Mama and Papa were pioneers who left security behind to blaze a new life of possibilities for themselves and their family on the Texas frontier. The diary Sherry Garland has written is not about the glory of war. It is, rather, a story about dreams, courage, freedom, and determination.
"The land is so unspoiled and beautiful — sometimes my heart fills up with so much joy and freedom, I have to whoop and run across the prairie like a wild mustang. I pray we never, never leave this place." The unspoiled woodlands and rolling prairies of Gonzales, Texas, described by thirteen-year-old Lucinda Lawrence in her birthday diary, are part of the Mexican Republic and Lucinda's home. When she writes those words on Thursday, September 17, 1835, Lucinda is unaware of the hardships and grief about to befall her family and the land she loves—changes that will jolt her comfortable existence and scar her unspoiled prairie.
Within days of her birthday, Lucinda realizes that dangerous times are at hand. Lucinda's papa and his friends begin discussing the explosive situation Texan settlers have created by resisting the Mexican government's orders. After overhearing her father's declaration that the "dern fool agitators are gonna get us all kilt," Cinda writes in her journal that "papa's words chilled my soul; even now I cannot get them out of my mind."
Famous and not-so famous Texans ride, shoot, argue, and march across the pages of Lucinda Lawrence's diary. Even David Crockett plays his fiddle as he and the Lawrence family travel toward San Antonio. Lucinda is dazzled by Crockett's charm: "Mr. Crockett told me I had the prettiest red hair he'd ever seen. Maybe he was joshing, but I will never forget him as long as I live." Lucinda Lawrence's chronicle of the Texan army's victories and defeats at Goliad, the Alamo, and the San Jacinto River come alive as she prays and worries about her brothers, her uncles, her friends, and her father-all the men and boys who are involved in Texas's fight for independence from Mexico. Some of the most stirring words in Lucinda's journal recount the final battle: "The Texans charged the Mexican troops while they were having an afternoon siesta. Our boys shouted, 'Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!' and their ardor won the victory." As word of the victory spreads through the civilian campsites, Mrs. Lawrence turns her wagon toward home and proclaims, "We've put too much blood and tears in this Texas soil to turn back now."
Thinking About the Book
- The Lawrence family is made up of six carefully developed characters. What one word would you use to describe each of the Lawrences: Papa, Mama, Willis, Lucinda, Lemuel, and Green? Explain your choices.
- Why is A Line in the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence set in Gonzales, Texas?
- Early on in Lucinda's diary, Papa and Willis disagree over whether or not the Texans should fight the Mexican Army. What were the reasons for and against the war?
- On December 11, Mrs. Lawrence says, "It's a sin to take pleasure in the death of any human, be he friend or foe" and Lucinda poses a question in her diary: "I wonder if she would say the same if Willis had been killed?" How would you feel if one of your relatives had been killed in a war? If you were interviewing victims of violence and told them what Mrs. Lawrence said, do you think they would agree?
- Many of the Spanish words Lucinda uses are still part of our vocabulary, even though we live in the United States and not Mexico. Do you know the meaning of these words? Are they part of your everyday language?
- Some of the Dear America books were made into movies. If you had a chance to be a director and choose any actor or actress to play in the film version of A Line in the Sand: the Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence, who would you select to play each of the major characters? Why?
- Lucinda and her best friend Mittie are very different. What do they have in common? Are you and your best friend different from each other? Make a fishbone diagram to show the differences between Mittie and Lucinda and then do one for you and your best friend.
- Susanna Dickinson was a real person, who, with her daughter Angelina, survived the Battle of the Alamo. See what else you can find out about Susanna. A book you might enjoy on this subject is John Jakes's Susanna of the Alamo.
- Although there is much sadness in Lucinda's diary, she also records happy times. Re-read the story of the salty egg (November 18) and take a look at the author interview to see how Sherry Garland learned about this custom. Folklore is filled with such customs and beliefs. For example, it is said that you will dream of what your future husband looks like if you sleep with a mirror under your pillow.
Interview some of your relatives and see if they remember growing up hearing similar sayings and customs. Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, and Linda M. Pavonetti, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Oakland University, Department of Reading and Language Arts, Rochester, Michigan.